There we were, all excited, about to canoe down the great river, beneath the blazing African sun. Leaving our group at the manor in the woods, we joked and strolled through natures back yard. A small clearing in the trees and we had reached our destination. There she was; splendid, majestic, yet calm. You wouldn’t dare underestimate her, for just a moments laps and she’d consume you like a bag of sweets. We carefully trod the sharp, slippery rocks as we made our way to the waters edge.
The sudden loud screech to our left of an angry-sounding bird soon distracted us. It was tall, with thin, gangly legs and a beak to match. It stared us down as if to vent it’s frustration for us disturbing it’s sunbathing routine. At first we saw just one, all cute though angry. Then we saw two, then three, then four and soon a whole army that raised their narrow necks from the drinking pool to stare us down. We had unintentionally stumbled into their community hub. My fear of animals compounded me to round my pathway towards the right through the mud/rock banks to avoid these ruffled looking creatures.
Still the adventure had to continue and it was now time for a quick dip. The peaceful yet piercing volume of a thousand river birds filled the background. These were natures songs of praise. My fellow explorer decided to canoe ahead while I swam a good 10m behind. As we approached the widest part of the river, my arms began to tire, so I decided to head back to shore. But first to take in the view. I lay on my back to rest. My eyes began to wonder round as I daydreamed in this stress-free zone. As I stared at a rock in the distance, it’s unusually long form and rough texture caught my gaze. A quick double take and I was sure I wasn’t seeing things right. I strained to gain focus without my ever present glasses and anxiously tried to make out what it was.
Suddenly, I caught the opening of a green and yellow eye, with its slim black pupil. It looked right at me. Yep, my fears were confirmed.
IT WAS A CROC!!!!
My body shivered in an instant. My once wondering mind was now fully focussed on this much feared and ruthless beast. The hairs on my forearms threw themselves into the water and hurriedly swam back to shore. My chest grew cold and sent shivers down my chest and spine. My heart jumped out and goosebumps from my shoulders to my feet all trembled and shuddered in absolute terror. Two of my biggest fears combined to make this the worst feeling ever – my fear of untamed wild animals, along with being stuck in deep, dark unknown waters. The closest river bank was where this beastly creature lay. Not wanting to alarm it, I swam in panicked silence towards the canoe. Facing the opposite direction, my colleague rowed away unaware of my predicament. Any sudden movement or noise could alarm this vicious beast. Not a confident swimmer, my abilities drastically increased due to my desperation. The birds that once sang sweet songs no longer existed to me. I was making steady ground towards the canoe desperately hoping my friend would look round to see my signal of distress. Suddenly, there was a splash in the water behind me and I looked round for the croc.
He had gone. Disappeared. I knew he’s in the water.
My fears were confirmed as I saw another slither down the muddy banks into the unclear grey waters. I couldn’t take it anymore. I screamed for my friend who panicked as he looked round, almost knocking himself into the water. The distance between us was more than me and these crocs, but I knew they were much quicker, more agile, and ruthless. They held no sympathy for stranded creatures or humans.
This was it. I just knew it. It had to be the end.
A strange peace and calm came over me as I awaited the inevitable; to meet my journeys end. As these thoughts filled my mind, I started seeing the insides of my eye lids. I rolled my eyeballs around but it was still pitch black. I couldn’t see. They flickered for a moment and slowly released till they were fully open. I was now in a dark room.
I thought: “Where am I? How did it end?”
I glanced round in confusion and saw a clock displaying 5am in glowing blue. I could go back to sleep. My nightmare was over; it was only a dream. I lay there in anxious yet joyful relief and reflected on what could, would and surely should’ve been. But as I took a deep breath and lay there in silence, I was most grateful to still have my limbs.